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Iago and Angelo as the Hypocrites of Shakespeare’s Othello

Few plot elements inspire such an emotional reaction in readers as does hypocrisy. Not only do readers feel genuine anger at the actions of the hypocritical character, but they also feel deep sympathy for the Hester Prynnes of the stories they read. This tandem of anger and sympathy is a powerful tool for an author to use to draw readers into his or her tale, because creating an emotional response in one’s audience is the best way to make them identify with the story. The response of the readers to these situations is a fascinating one. Perhaps the reader remembers a time when s/he was the victim of a two-faced action. Perhaps stories about hypocrisy evoke a sense of moral outrage or awaken a sense of justice in the reader. Perhaps the reader is simply fascinated with having a secret that s/he is unable to tell. For whatever reason, authors have carefully woven threads of hypocrisy into the fabric of their stories since the very dawn of literature. Some of the best examples of this skill (as indeed of many others) come from the writings of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s astute observations of human nature coupled with his amazing word craftsmanship have created some of the most memorable hypocrite characters in all of literature. From the twisted, jealous, hatred of Iago in Othello to the lusty self-righteousness of Angelo in Measure for Measure, we can glean a sense of Shakespeare’s masterful manipulation of hypocrisy to create a tempting tale. Iago and Angelo are true hypocrites.

In Othello, we are first introduced to Iago, a military officer under the command of the Othello, a well-respected Moorish captain. Iago’s hatred for Othello is revealed in the very first lines of the play, when it is revealed that he has been…

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…haracters who exhibit hypocrisy. Whether it is anger at the hypocrite or empathy for the victim, a good author or playwright can capitalize on this tendency but constructing a plot with a few hypocritical timbers. Shakespeare was a master at such structures, introducing two of them in Othello and Measure for Measure. Iago and Angelo are both men of relatively high rank whose own hypocrisies lead to their downfalls. Iago’s hypocrisy permeates every facet of his character, including loyalty, friendships, and marital relations. Angelo, meanwhile, falls victim to his desires and commits one major hypocritical action, exhibiting both lust and lawlessness. The fact that these two plays are driven by these hypocritical actions is a testament to the ability of hypocrisy to promote a response in an audience, and a testament to the Bard’s incomparable playwriting skills.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream Essay: Love and Marriage

Love and Marriage in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

There is something to be said for the passionate love of young people, and Shakespeare said it in Romeo and Juliet. The belief that any action can be excused if one follows one’s feelings is a sentimental notion that is not endorsed by Shakespeare. Thus, Theseus’ suggestion in 1.1 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, that Hermia marry a man she does not love rather than “live a barren sister” all her life would seem perfectly sensible to Shakespeare’s contemporaries.

Shakespeare writes for a public who views marriage unsentimentally. At all levels of society, from king to commoner, marriage is entered into for commercial and dynastic reasons. People marry to increase their property and to secure its inheritance. Wise parents, who may dispose of their children in marriage, will of course try to avoid matches which the contracting parties find intolerable, but there are limits to this. On the other hand, children have a duty of obedience. And the husband Egeus proposes for Hermia is by no means unattractive; his chief defect is that he is not Lysander, whom Hermia loves, perhaps intemperately.

The play shows how the ideal relationship is that in which the affections and the reasonable mind are both in harmony. At the start of the play, both Demetrius and Helena are clearly at fault. Demetrius has allowed his love for Helena to abate; she, by fawning on him, is guilty of doting, which exacerbates his dislike. An honourable man would stand by his promise and try to re-discover his love for Helena, and it is this which draws Lysander’s taunt that Demetrius is “spotted and inconstant”. In time, perhaps, Demetrius might reconsider Helena’s merits, but in the brief ti…

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…up with mud”, for example; we learn of “the farthest steep of India”, of Oberon’s various favorites.

Against the beautiful lyric and exotic account of the changeling’s pregnant mother we have the homely jollity of Puck’s pranks on the “fat and bean-fed horse” or “wisest aunt”. Oberon gives us many set-piece descriptions: of the “bank whereon the wild thyme blows”, of the “fair vestal” whom Cupid’s bolt failed to hit, and of Titania’s “seeking sweet favours for this hateful fool” (Bottom), among others. Here Shakespeare shows us what can be done “in this kind”, lest the failure of Pyramus and Thisbe lead us to the conclusion that the theatre can only depict what can literally be brought on stage. In watching a play filled with references to moonlight, darkness, day-break we do well to recall that it was first performed in open-air theatres in daylight!

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